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Spicy Cumin Beef Noodles

May 6, 2021

Serves 2

I have no idea how I found my way to Christopher Kimball's, but I am glad to have discovered it. Milk Street is located in downtown Boston and is host to a magazine and a cooking school. What I like so much about Milk Street is that it doesn't just focus on one cuisine. It is inclusive of cuisines from all over the world. The spicy cumin beef noodles have become a favorite in my home. If you love cumin, this dish is for you. If not, keep on scrolling. That means you Melinda.

There is an addictive and deeply satisfying heat to this dish from the chili oil. You can purchase some at a specialty store or Asian market or make your own like I do. I urge you to make your own! My favorite chili oil recipe comes from woks of life. It's SO easy! I always make the larger amount and I never include the garlic or shallot. But that's just me. The simple combination of balsamic vinegar and soy sauce is a match made in flavor heaven. A good friend gifted me an extraordinary bottle of balsamic vinegar from Italy. It is so rich and thick, like syrup. Please, if you can, find a top quality balsamic from Modena, the real deal, and use it for this recipe. Amazing!

I have made this with pappardelle noodles and with steamed white rice. For the latter, skip the addition of water to the sauce. I also tweaked the steps to make it more user-friendly. I had a hunch that a squeeze of fresh lime juice and chopped fresh cilantro might brighten the flavors and tie it all together. I was right!


3 tablespoons chili oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons neutral oil, divided

1 pound flat iron or flank steak, cut lengthwise into 2-inch strips, then thinly sliced against the grain

kosher salt

4 teaspoons cumin seeds, crushed lightly

9 ounces pappardelle noodles (I use Trader Joe's brand, but there are many options out there)

1/4 cup pasta water

juice of 1 lime

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


Whisk the chili oil, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of oil in a small bowl and set aside.

Set a pot of water over high heat, add some salt, enough that when you taste it, it tastes like the sea.

In a 12-inch sauté pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat until the oil starts to shimmer. I don't have a pan that large, so I always cook the beef in batches. It's best to do it this way if you are using a smaller pan. If the meat is too crowded, it will steam rather than brown and it ain't pretty. The browning step is crucial because it aids in the development of flavor. It's also important to use a pan large enough so that at the end you can toss the pasta, meat, and sauce in that same pan.

Add the beef, sprinkle with some salt, and let one side brown. This will only take a few minutes because the slices are so thin. They will cook quickly. Turn the pieces over and repeat the process. Remove them from the pan and place in a bowl to rest. Continue this process with any remaining beef. Once you have cooked all the meat, add the cumin seeds and let them sizzle in any remaining juice or fat for about 30 seconds, being careful not to scorch them. Add them to the resting beef and turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, add the pappardelle noodles to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions, or a minute or two less if you like your noodles al dente. While the noodles are cooking, remove 1/4 cup of the water and combine it with the chili oil sauce.

Drain the pasta. Turn the heat on medium/medium low. Add the beef, cumin seeds and chili oil back into the pan and mix. Pour in the pasta noodles and toss gently for about 1 minute, making sure all the noodles are coated with the sauce. Then remove from the heat. Squeeze the lime juice over the top, and sprinkle with fresh cilantro and a drizzle of chili oil. Enjoy and please post a comment/question if you make it.

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